Herniated back disc
Pain from a herniated back disc can be extremely disruptive to your life. Hobbies, exercise and even work and family can be sidelined if you begin to experience chronic symptoms due to nerve compression. It is up to a medical professional, like your primary care doctor or a spine specialist, to diagnose and treat this condition. But knowing as much as possible about symptoms and the full range of treatment options available to you can offer a better chance of returning you to the pain-free life you deserve.
Herniated disc overview and symptoms
The discs in your spine act as shock absorbers for the vertebrae, allowing the back to bend and flex. Since the spine is responsible for supporting so much weight, normal activities — even just sitting at your desk — can take their toll over the years. This normal, age-related deterioration causes the discs to dry out and flatten. As the vertebrae put more pressure on them, the tough outer wall of a disc can tear. A herniated disc is when the gel-like inner material of the disc extrudes through this tear. If any disc material comes into contact with the spinal cord or nerve roots, the painful symptoms associated with a herniated back disc can occur.
Herniated discs are most often found between the lowest five vertebrae — known as the L1-L5 region. This is where the back is most flexible and endures the stress of the weight of the upper body. Here, a herniated disc can lead to pain that radiates from the lower back through the buttocks and legs, all the way to the feet. This intense pain in the lower body, along with tingling, numbness and other symptoms, is called sciatica if a herniated disc has pinched the sciatic nerve.
Although not as common as a lumbar herniated disc, a cervical herniated disc (in the neck area) is also a potential source of debilitating pain. A herniated neck disc can cause intense neck pain as well as tingling, numbness and weakness that extends through the arms all the way to the fingertips.
If you believe your pain and other symptoms may be related to a herniated disc in the lower back, it is recommended that you visit your physician for a thorough examination and diagnosis. Once it is determined that a herniated disc is causing your back pain, conservative treatment will likely first be prescribed to provide relief. Nonsurgical treatments may include:
- The application of hot and cold compresses
- Over-the-counter or prescription medications
- Stretching, conditioning and strengthening
- Training to improve posture
- Dietary recommendations
- Physical therapy
If a full course of conservative treatments has not provided the relief you require, your physician may then refer you for herniated disc surgery. Traditional open back surgery can come with many difficulties: risk of infection, expensive hospitalization and a long, painful recovery. Minimally invasive spine surgery is an answer to these difficulties, offering a lower risk of infection because it is performed on an outpatient basis and the ability for a patient to be up and walking within a few hours of a procedure in cases.
Laser Spine Institute is the leader in this field, performing both minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization surgeries that can relieve herniated back disc pain. Contact our dedicated team to request an MRI review today to see if you may be a potential candidate.